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Meet our 2017 Vimeo Share the Screen Fellow – Sabaah Folayan

After reviewing more than 130 amazing projects we’re excited to announce that Sabaah Folayan has been selected as the 2017 Vimeo Share the Screen Fellow!
(Photo by Maarten de Boer/Getty Images Portrait)

 

Sabaah is the director and producer of Whose Streets?, a documentary set to be released by Magnolia Pictures on August 11th after debuting at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. She’s excited to get to work on her next project as part of the fellowship. We spoke with Sabaah to find out more about her background, the genesis of Whose Streets?, and what’s next for her as she joins us to embark on her next venture.

Tell me a little bit about you and your background. What’s your story?

I’m from Los Angeles, CA and Whose Streets? was my first film. I was actually studying medicine, pre-med, at Columbia University…and then I took a detour in the summer of 2014 when Mike Brown was killed…I wanted to pursue writing because it was something I always loved personally, and I thought I could contribute by bringing a different perspective to the story of what was going on in Ferguson, so I just kind of up and went and was originally going to try to write but when I got there I realized it wasn’t the right setting for the type of interviewing I wanted to do and I was with my former classmate, who is my DP and we just started rolling. From the very first interview it became clear that we had to make this a film project. We had no idea what was going to happen, how long it was going to take, neither of us had ever made a film before but we all, along with our editor, decided that we had to get through…and in the process, just getting exposed to the film industry. I realized that I had always had this dream that I would become a doctor and secretly work on a screenplay and that it would be discovered and made into a movie…this really just opened up all these different doors in this whole entire world of independent film that I had no idea about…and since then I’ve just been working on this project, and it got picked up by Magnolia right out of Sundance and it’ll be in theaters August 11th. I’m really excited to keep working in this field, to keep stretching and honing my craft and my skills and grateful to have found something really resonates with what’s important to me…I can still have an impact on the world.

The project you will be working on during your fellowship – what is it about and why did you decided to pursue it?

It was toward the end of production and I was wondering what I was going to do next and it’s always difficult to figure out what’s going to resonate with who at what time and so in the span of one week, my mom and two other friends randomly shared references to the same female folk hero with me out of the blue. So finally, I decided to do my own research and I feel like she’s not represented or paralleled in any existing archetype and there are so many opportunities to use this history of female leadership, resistance, and the search for freedom as a way to examine what we’re going through. I felt like it had a lot of incredible relevant themes and at the same time it’s such a rich, rich world that she comes from and her story is folk, it’s not written in text as much, and I’m a really interested in folk history. I’m also interested in “what is the story on the ground level,” the people’s rendition of events, because that’s really the only way to get information since people were resistant to writing about her because she was a woman. I’m curious to see what her story can teach people about freedom, about resistance, about what motivates people to battle for power but at the same time give people a whole different world to be situated in, to think about these things from a different perspective.

So what’s next? What do you hope to achieve in the upcoming six months and what are you most looking forward to?

In the next six months I just hope to really solidify this project as far as having a working script, going through who the characters are, what the world is, who the team is that will try to bring this to life. I’m really excited for the opportunity to have a space to just focus and be dedicated, this is the first time that I’ve been without a 9-to-5 job. It’s really interesting when you’re working on your own project, it kind of takes over your whole entire life and there are no boundaries. My living room has been my office and it makes it feel like I’m constantly working and so in the spirit of working toward a work-life balance and discipline and taking this path seriously, I’m really excited to have a home base at the Media Center to work from.

How do you see Vimeo and the Media Center helping you on this journey?

I’m super excited about the community, the mentors, interacting with other professionals, and all the events that the Media Center has to offer so I can’t wait to access that. I think Vimeo is really great. I feel like Vimeo offers a great platform for shorter and small works to be shared and I enjoy their new tools for collaborating. It really caters to filmmakers as far as the sharing and collaborating around your materials, so I’m excited to continue using Vimeo as a tool, but I also look forward to learning more about the organizations, and what they have to offer.

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Sabaah will join the Made in NY Media Center by IFP this June and will incubate in our space for six months where she will receive the tools and resources to support her project as well as meeting with the Vimeo team to help develop her project further.

We want to thank and congratulate all the participants that applied to the fellowship. We received several hundred submission and all of the incredible and strong applications that entered are proof that there are many talented female-identifying filmmakers creating inspiring work around the world.

The Vimeo Share the Screen fellowship is part of Vimeo’s ongoing efforts to help close the gender gap that prevails in the entertainment industry, fostering equality by supporting female-led video and film projects.

If you want to keep track of our upcoming fellowship opportunities and events, sign up to our newsletter here.